Brahms Symphonies 1-4


Brahms Symphonies 1-4 (complete symphonies) concert. Performed in 2018 at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées. Paavo Järvi conducts the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen. Music video directed for TV by Jean-Pierre Loisil. Also contains the documentary film The Brahms Code directed by Christian Bercer. Released 2019, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

Well folks, forget about the silly PR that the musicians of Bremen play Brahms best. But it’s also apparent from numerous reviews that Järvi and his scaled-down chamber orchestra play Brahms plenty well with forces that Brahms had in mind when he composed. The explanation of the “Brahms Code” in the documentary can’t do any harm. It’s great to see that we have all 4 symphonies and the documentary on one disc at a fair price — this takes good advantage of the capacity of the Blu-ray disc to the benefit of the customer. So this title could be a winner for us with high-definition TVs if Jean-Pierre Loisil was told to make a record that would take good advantage of the Blu-ray video capabilities.

But, alas, this title is also going to be released in DVD format. This raises the likelihood that this title will be ruined for us by the great scourge of DVDitis. I just checked, and C Major has never published a Blu-ray video of symphonic music that got on our list of the best classical music Blu-rays. Everything they have done in symphony music was an obsolete dud before the first Blu-ray customer bought a disc. That’s because all the efforts of C Major have been aimed at success in the DVD market with the added hope that some consumers might buy a Blu-ray instead of a DVD (creating an extra profit). This is legally and ethically OK as the Blu-ray version will have better resolution that the DVD and maybe also better sound. But to those of us you care about quality, these imposter Blu-rays are a catastrophe because they fall so short of the quality that could have been provided with correct HD video content.

So I’m not expecting this complete Brahms symphony title be acceptable. But there’s always hope. And there is actually a reason to harbor special hope for this title. With a small chamber orchestra, it might be possible for the videographer to create a video file designed to good great on a high-definition display that would also look OK in DVD. See our special story on this for all the details.